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The Association of Colleges (AoC) exists to promote, represent and support the importance of college education to a wealth of individuals and to develop the educational standing of colleges.

So, why should we write this blog on the AoC today of all days? It’s the night before their annual conference and exhibition at the ICC in Birmingham 18-20 November 2014, coinciding with their recent publication ‘College Key Facts 2014/2015’.

We thought it worth pulling out the highlights from this recent publication:

  • The report opens with the statement ‘Every year colleges educate and train over 3.1 million people’. From this, we need to focus on the word ‘train’ as well as educate. Of the 3.1 million, 71% are adults studying or training in colleges, more likely as a support to their job role and to benefit their employee. We also need to note that sixth formers and apprentices choose a college over school to complete their education and that a college education & training also acts a stepping-stone to further forms of higher education, whether through a college or elsewhere.
  • The report continues with a ‘Success’ chapter and it’s a positive message! Education and training success rates in colleges are 86.7%, an increase of nearly 3% y.o.y. What is also of note is that the greatest numbers of 16-18 year olds are studying at further education colleges compared to schools.
  • 82% of Ofsted inspections declared colleges to be good or outstanding. Not a bad statistic at all and a whopping 8% increase y.o.y. This also coincides with an increase in assessment that higher education students are satisfied with their training and feedback.
  • The most important point to note is that ‘employers view 17 to 18 year-old college leavers as better prepared for work than school leavers’.
  • Then we come to the money. ‘The total college income in England is £7.6 billion’. The Government contributes £3 billion, with the rest generated through colleges running their own businesses and initiatives. Yet, ‘students aged 19+ contribute £75 billion for the economy’ over their working life.

In summary, colleges are a success story!

We know we’re preaching to the choir but… This report makes it clear. With a strong educational core and a belief in inclusivity, many graduates and college leavers are deemed more employable than those that have taken other routes to employment, as well as being a ‘value for money’ route to boost the UK economy. Not forgetting that colleges also offer courses to and support the unemployed and early school leavers. The further education sector really is win-win, in our books!

The main theme of this year’s conference is to discuss the future of further education with experts and policy makers in ‘creating futures together’. Incredibly important! We’ll be live tweeting from the show so follow @ElephantCreate and #aocce14